• The Big Chair in Anacostia (Source: Flickr user stgermh. Used via Creative Commons license.)
    Strange But True
     
     
    In one of D.C.'s more creative publicity stunts, an Anacostia furniture store built a giant dining room chair and paid a local model to live on top of it for six weeks in the summer of 1960.
  • Chuck Berry in 1973. (Source: Wikipedia)
    Strange But True
     
     
    As was his custom, Chuck Berry did not bring a backup band to his University of Maryland show in 1973, so he deputized a largely unknown Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to play alongside him.
  • (Photo by Flickr user I Like licensed via Creative Commons.)
    Local Tastes
     
     
    Before the days of Half Smokes and Jumbo Slices, D.C.’s collective stomach rumbled for a different delicacy: diamondback terrapin.
  •  Jimi Hendrix performs at the 1968 Miami Pop Festival. (Photo Courtesy of © Ken Davidoff/Authentic Hendrix LLC)
    Music History
     
     
    No film record exists of the legendary guitarist's three performances in the D.C. area in 1967 and 1968, but those shows have become the stuff of local legend.
  • The National Mall
     
     
    The railroad station that stood on the National Mall in 1881 was already maligned by many, but the assassination of President Garfield there didn't help its reputation.
Lt. O.W. Larsen talks with his wife shortly after his release. (Photo Credit: Ken Heinen, Reprinted with permission of the DC Public Library, Star Collection, © Washington Post.)

Christmas Escape at Lorton, 1974

It was Christmas night 1974 in Lorton Reformatory’s Maximum Security wing. Correctional Officer Lt. O.W. Larsen was keeping watch over the mess hall where around 100 inmates were finishing dinner and sitting down for a showing of “The Hong Kong Connection,” a Kung Fu movie. Suddenly Larsen felt the muzzle of a handgun pressed into his neck. Earl Coleman, serving 5 to 15 years for robbery and nicknamed “Killer”, had his finger on the trigger. As Coleman overpowered Larsen, other inmates did the same to the other guards in the hall. Within moments they had control of the room.

A young and serious Willis Conover, cigarette in one hand, jazz record in the other, in his Voice of America studio. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Willis Conover Questions

While visiting Moscow, a group of American tourists had encountered a flurry of questions from curious Russians, “what was the price of an American automobile, what did Americans think of ‘beat generation’ writers, how many Americans were unemployed?” When the interrogation broached the subject of music, one American boasted familiarity with Shostakovich, Khachaturian, and Prokofiev. “And,” one Russian chimed in, “is Willis Conover highly regarded in the United States?” Russian eyes widened, American brows furrowed, and a puzzled silence ensued.

Convicted murderer Bernard Welch speaks with a reporter in Washington, March 29, 1981. Welch was convicted in the murder of Dr. Michael Halberstam of Washington, D.C. (AP Photo)

Running Down the Ghost Burglar

Dr. Michael Halberstam and his wife, Elliott, had planned to go to a movie after leaving their friends’ cocktail party, but they decided to make a quick stop back at home first. Michael parked the car and went inside the couple’s Palisades D.C. home to let out their two dogs, Iris and Jake. Elliot headed around back to meet the pups. It was about 8:45pm – well after dark in the late fall. Moments later, the doctor was staring down the barrel of snub-nosed revolver in his own kitchen.

The odd chain of events that came next would uncover one of the largest — and strangest — crime operations in Washington, D.C. area history.

Exterior view of Pope-Leighey House in the early evening, as warm light shines through the uniquely carved clerestory windows

All's Wright that Ends Well: The Pope-Leighey House of Northern Virginia

When Loren Pope learned of the acclaimed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, he spent months working up the courage to mail him a letter. "There are certain things a man wants during life, and, of life," Pope divulged in 1941. "Material things and things of the spirit. The writer has one fervent wish that includes both. It is for a house created by you." Wright penned in response, "Of course I'm ready to give you a house." Their earnest collaboration resulted in a humbly exquisite Falls Church home. Pope's wish had come true, but mere wishful thinking would not be enough to save the house from highway builders in the 1960s.

Map of proposed Three Sisters Bridge to connect Virginia and Washington D.C. via I-266

No Bridge for Three Sisters

As a centuries-old legend has it, three young women attempted to cross the Potomac River late one night. They drowned in a horrific storm, however, and marked the place of their deaths with a cluster of rocks: the Three Sisters Islands. Today's kayakers and canoe paddlers may not feel the dread of the three sisters' curse, but their final promise may explain D.C.'s failure to build a bridge over these islands. If we cannot cross the river here, then nobody else ever will. The unbuilt Three Sisters Bridge played a crucial role in mid-20th century politics, especially the subway vs. freeway debates that would determine the future of transit in the nation's capital.

Harry Truman. (Photo source: Library of Congress)

President Truman's Close Call at Blair House

A little before 2pm on November 1, 1950, President Truman laid down for a quick nap at Blair House, the temporary residence of the first family while the White House was undergoing renovations. Across town, taxi driver John Gavounas had just picked up two men at North Capitol St. and Massachusetts Ave. The men instructed him to take them to 17th and Pennsylvania Ave. and then spent the ride talking to each other in Spanish. The only word that Gavounas recognized was “Truman.” Moments later, the sidewalk erupted in gunfire.

Clover Adams‘ self-portrait, in which her face is almost completely hidden. (Photo source: Wikimedia Commons.)

The Hay-Adams Hotel's Perpetual Guest

The atmosphere at the Hay-Adams Hotel remains one of hospitality and timelessness, just ask the woman who’s supposedly made it her home for over 130 years. Tarnishing its long held reputation of extravagance and exclusivity is the hotel’s only unwanted guest: the esteemed ghost of the Hay-Adams, Marion Hooper Adams. Her brilliance as an intellect and socialite in the late 19th-century are made all the more legendary by her tragic and early death.

The Library of Congress: An Overdue Opening

“Students in the Reading Room of the Library of Congress with the Librarian of Congress, Herbert Putnam, watching” (Photo Source: Library of Congress) Johnston, Frances Benjamin, photographer. Students in the Reading Room of the Library of Congress with the Librarian of Congress, Herbert Putnam, watching. Washington D.C, 1899. [?] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/98502945/.

November 1, 1897 was a cold, rainy Monday in the District. “This may not have been propitious weather for some occasions, but it was hailed with delight by a certain class of persons when they arose that morning. They were not human ducks, either, for the affair in which they wished to participate was sufficient evidence that they were intensely human, and of an intellectual type.” This was the day that the new Congressional Library was to open, and allow eager readers into the Beaux-Arts style building for the first time.

Norman Morrison (Source: Wikipedia)

The Fire of Norman Morrison

Dusk was approaching when Norman Morrison pulled into the Pentagon parking lot on November 2, 1965. Parking his two-tone Cadillac in the lot, he walked toward the north entrance, carrying his 11-month old daughter, Emily, and a wicker picnic basket with a jug of kerosene inside. Reaching a retaining wall at the building’s perimeter, the 31-year-old Quaker from Baltimore climbed up and began pacing back and forth. Around 5:20 pm, he yelled to Defense Department workers who were leaving the building.

Then, the unthinkable.

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